Connecticut Court Dismisses Native American Tribe’s Claim to Mortgages on Property Previously Owned by the Tribe

The Superior Court of Connecticut recently dismissed a takings complaint brought by a Native American tribe in which the tribe claimed that it owned certain mortgages on land that the State took from it.  See Schaghticoke Tribal Nation v. State, 2019 WL 2872304 (Conn. Super. Ct. May 22, 2019).  The Native American tribe originally brought a complaint seeking just compensation for the government’s alleged taking of the tribe’s land.  After the trial court dismissed that claim, the tribe brought this claim alleging that the tribe at least owned the mortgages on the land and that the government owed the tribe just compensation for its taking of the land.  The tribe’s claim was based on an 1801 General Assembly resolution that authorized a committee to sell the land and take back mortgages for the benefit of the tribe.  Under the resolution, a government-appointed tribal overseer would use the proceeds to pay off the tribe’s debts and to otherwise assist the tribe. 

The Court dismissed the complaint, holding that “[t]he trouble is that [the tribe’s] claim to own the mortgages at issue suffers from the same flaw as its land claim: there is no express grant to the tribe of the ownership of the mortgages, and without one the tribe has no property right it can allege was wrongly taken from it.”  According to the Court, the 1801 resolution only gave the tribe “the hope of future charity” from the State and nothing more.  The resolution “doesn't mean the tribe owned the mortgages or even had any irrevocable rights in the income stream from them. The state elected to help the tribe. It was not required by law or contract to help the tribe.”  Because the Court found that the tribe had no legal interest in the mortgages, it dismissed the takings claim.

For a copy of the decision, please contact Michael O’Donnell at modonnell@riker.com, Michael Crowley at mcrowley@riker.com, or Dylan Goetsch at dgoetsch@riker.com.